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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Week 1 closer chronicles

It wouldn't be the first day of the fantasy baseball season if we didn't have closer drama. And we're not referring to John Axford's less-than-ideal start to the season.

Seattle's David Aardsma, Oakland's Andrew Bailey, Toronto's Frank Francisco, Philadelphia's Brad Lidge and our personal favorite, San Francisco's Brian Wilson, all opened the season on the disabled list.

As usual, owners in 5x5 roto leagues scrambled in the past few days to find replacements -- lending even more credence to the It's Better to Punt Saves on Draft Day Theory.

Because of baseball's midweek start this year, Week 1 will last through next week in most leagues, thus the injuries to Francisco (chest and shoulder) and Wilson (oblique) aren't of much concern. Both could be back as soon as next week, with Jon Rauch serving as Francisco's replacement and Sergio Romo (5-3, 2.18 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 70 strikeouts in 62 innings last season) the most likely candidate to get saves in Wilson's absence.

If you're looking for a longer-term replacement at closer, the other three teams have much more volatile situations.

Lidge could miss as much as two months because of a posterior rotator cuff strain, and Aardsma is expected to be out until May with a hip problem. The A's haven't give a return date for Bailey, who has a forearm injury, but he likely won't be back for at least a couple of weeks.

All of which brings us to our ranking of the three replacement closers:

1. Jose Contreras, Phillies:
He was 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA and 57 Ks in 56 2/3 innings last season. Lidge hasn't exactly been a model of stability the last two seasons, so we wouldn't be surprised if Contreras has the job for longer than a couple of months this year.

2. Brian Fuentes, Athletics:
He had 24 saves, a 2.81 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with the Angels and Twins last season, and he saved 48 games the year before in Los Angeles. He should be a reliable source of saves until the injury-prone Bailey returns.

3. Brandon League, Mariners: He might have the job longer than Fuentes, but he's much less of a sure thing after a 2010 in which he was 9-7, but blew half of his 12 save opportunities and had only 56 Ks in 79 innings. League has eight saves in seven big-league seasons.

One more quick note on closers: Owners who are relying on Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel and the Angels' Fernando Rodney had to be encouraged by Thursday's games. We know it's early, but neither was guaranteed the job in camp, and both struck out a pair of batters to pick up the save Thursday. Kimbrel, who now has 42 Ks in 21 2/3 innings in his young career, could be a top-10 reliever by season's end.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Top 100 overall

A few quick notes before we get to the finale of our 10-part 2011 preview:

-- We dropped Phillies second baseman Chase Utley from second at his position and No. 18 overall to No. 6 at second and No. 55 overall because of concerns over a knee injury that will force him to begin the season on the disabled list. The Phillies have been vague about a return date for Utley, all of which pushes him further down everyone's draft boards.

-- Brian Roberts' back injury doesn't seem to be as big of a concern for the Orioles as it was two weeks ago. The second baseman would be a sixth-round bargain if he produces as he did in 2009 (.283, 16 homers, 79 RBI, 110 runs and 30 stolen bases).

-- Brewers outfielder Corey Hart isn't expected to be ready for opening day because of an oblique injury. He's a risky sixth-round choice.

-- We seem to be among the few who believe Grady Sizemore can be an effective No. 3 outfielder this season. He's not the stud he was from 2006 to '08, but he could hit for power and steal enough bases to be a worthwhile starter.

-- There seem to be no signs of concern about Giants closer and YouTube sensation Brian Wilson. The eccentric reliever likely will begin the season on the disabled list because of an oblique injury, but he shouldn't be sidelined long and his numbers from the last two seasons are too good to pass up if you're looking for a closer.

-- Angels first baseman Kendry Morales will start the year on the DL because of a foot injury, which has dropped him to No. 12 in our first-base rankings and to No. 88 overall.

-- Strained obliques apparently are in this spring. The Yankees' Curtis Granderson is suffering from the ailment, which might force him to the DL, but, like Wilson, it doesn't seem to be a major concern.

-- For a column on when to draft a pitcher, along with sleepers, busts, overrated and underrated players, go to the sports section of The News-Herald's website on Friday.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
2. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies
3. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins
4. Carl Crawford, OF, Red Sox
5. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
6. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
7. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
8. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
9. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
10. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
11. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
12. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
13. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
14. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
15. David Wright, 3B, Mets
16. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
17. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
18. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox
19. Joe Mauer, C, Twins
20. Buster Posey, C, Giants
21. Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays
22. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
23. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians
24. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets
25. Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals
26. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Red Sox
27. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox
28. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
29. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers
30. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
31. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies
32. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers
33. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees
34. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers
35. Victor Martinez, C, Tigers
36. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
37. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
38. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
39. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
40. Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves
41. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
42. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees
43. Brian McCann, C, Braves
44. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers
45. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies
46. David Price, SP, Rays
47. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies
48. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
49. Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies
50. Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins
51. Adam Dunn, DH, White Sox
52. Hunter Pence, OF, Astros
53. Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks
54. Alex Rios, OF, White Sox
55. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
56. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers
57. Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks
58. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels
59. Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
60. Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox
61. Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
62. Roy Oswalt, SP, Phillies
63. Delmon Young, OF, Twins
64. Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies
65. Mat Latos, SP, Padres
66. Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles
67. Michael Young, DH, Rangers
68. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox
69. Corey Hart, OF, Brewers
70. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies
71. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs
72. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers
73. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals
74. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners
75. Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians
76. Martin Prado, OF, Braves
77. Carlos Santana, C, Indians
78. Brian Wilson, RP, Giants
79. Heath Bell, RP, Padres
80. Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox
81. Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins
82. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
83. Joakim Soria, RP, Royals
84. Casey McGehee, 3B, Brewers
85. Aubrey Huff, 1B, Giants
86. Billy Butler, 1B, Royals
87. Matt Cain, SP, Giants
88. Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels
89. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
90. Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees
91. Neftali Felix, RP, Rangers
92. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers
93. Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves
94. Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees
95. Carlos Marmol, RP, Cubs
96. Vernon Wells, OF, Angels
97. Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins
98. Bobby Abreu, DH, Angels
99. Adam Lind, 1B, Blue Jays
100. Juan Pierre, OF, White Sox

POSITION PREVIEWS: Catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, designated hitters, outfielders, starting pitchers, relievers

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2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Relief pitchers

Brian Wilson’s spring training injury is worrisome on two levels.

It could mean the Giants closer will open the season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, and it could mean fewer chances for us to watch one of the most entertaining characters in baseball.

Wilson hasn’t been ruled out “completely” for opening day, according to Manager Bruce Bochy, and I wouldn’t worry about his injury to the point I would consider dropping him from the top of the closer rankings.

Wilson might start the year on the DL, but his stay there should be brief, and once he returns, you should get the closer who was lights out in 2010.

Wilson has 127 saves the last three seasons, and he has struck out a combined 176 in 147 innings the last two years.

All of which brings us to our rankings of the top closers — the last position in our series (the overall top 100 will follow):

Rank, player: IP-ERA-K-SV-Opp.
1. Brian Wilson, SF: 74.2-1.81-93-48-53
2. Heath Bell, SD: 70-1.93-47-47-50
3. Joakim Soria, KC: 65.2-1.78-71-43-46
4. Neftali Feliz, Tex: 69.1-2.73-71-40-43
5. Mariano Rivera, NYY: 60-1.80-45-33-38
6. Carlos Marmol, ChC: 77.2-2.55-138-38-43
7. Jonathan Papelbon, Bos: 67-3.90-76-37-45
8. John Axford, Mil: 58-2.48-76-24-27
9. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM: 57.1-2.20-67-25-30
10. Chris Perez, Cle: 63-1.71-61-23-27
11. Jonathan Broxton, LAD: 62.1-4.04-73-22-29
12. Huston Street, Col: 47.1-3.61-45-20-25
13. Jose Valverde, Det: 63-3.00-63-26-29
14. Joe Nathan, Min: DID NOT PITCH
15. Francisco Cordero, Cin: 72.2-3.84-59-40-48
16. Matt Thornton, CWS: 60.2-2.67-81-8-10
17. Andrew Bailey, Oak: 49-1.47-42-25-28
18. Brad Lidge, Phi: 45.2-2.96-52-27-32
19. Craig Kimbrel, Atl: 20.2-0.44-40-1-1
20. J.J. Putz, Ari: 54-2.83-65-3-7

Preseason top 100 players (6): Wilson (78), Bell (79), Soria (83), Feliz (91), Rivera (94), Marmol (95).

Short hops
The Padres’ Bell has saved a combined 89 games in 98 chances the last two years. In that span, he has 12 wins and 165 Ks in 139 2/3 innings. ... The Rangers still haven’t announced their plans for Feliz. He is being considered as a starter, but we can only hope he stays as the closer following a first full season in which he saved 40 games in 43 chances. ... In four full big-league seasons, Marmol has 441 Ks in 308 1/3 innings. ... The Tribe’s Perez saved 16 games in 17 opportunities and was 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA after the All-Star break last season. ... Broxton is back as the Dodgers’ closer after losing his job to Hong-Chih Kuo last season. ... Nathan is expected to resume his role as the Twins' closer after missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery. If you draft him, consider taking teammate Matt Capps late. The latter had a combined 42 saves and a 2.47 ERA with Washington and Minnesota in 2010.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: Outfielders, Wednesday; starting pitchers, today; relief pitchers, today; later today: overall top 100.

LAST WEEK: Shortstops, March 17; third baseman, March 19; designated hitters, March 20.

TWO WEEKS AGO: Catchers, March 7; first baseman, March 8; second baseman, March 9.

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2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Starting pitchers

When Adam Wainwright went down with a season-ending injury this spring, the elite starting pitching ranks took a hit, as did the hopes of any fantasy owner who prefers to load up on starting pitching early.

We have only three pitchers ranked in the top 26 overall — Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum. Boston’s Jon Lester is No. 27 in our overall top 100, and Detroit’s Justin Verlander is two spots back.

The position is deep, however — we have 21 starting pitchers in our top 100, and Oakland’s Trevor Cahill narrowly missed making it 22.

We’ll address when to draft your first starting pitcher in a column that will appear in Friday’s print editions and online. Until then, our eighth position breakdown of 2011:

Rank, player: IP-W-L-ERA-K
1. Roy Halladay, Phi: 250.2-21-10-2.44-219
2. Felix Hernandez, Sea: 249.2-13-12-2.27-232
3. Tim Lincecum, SF: 212.1-16-10-3.43-231
4. Jon Lester, Bos: 208-19-9-3.25-225
5. Justin Verlander, Det: 224.1-18-9-3.37-219
6. Cliff Lee, Phi: 212.1-12-9-3.18-185
7. CC Sabathia, NYY: 237.2-21-7-3.18-197
8. Ubaldo Jimenez, Col: 221.2-19-8-2.88-214
9. David Price, TB: 208.2-19-6-2.72-188
10. Josh Johnson, Fla: 183.2-11-6-2.30-186
11. Jered Weaver, LAA: 224.1-13-12-3.01-233
12. Roy Oswalt, Phi: 211.2-13-13-2.76-193
13. Mat Latos, SD: 184.2-14-10-2.92-189
14. Cole Hamels, Phi: 208.2-12-11-3.06-211
15. Clayton Kershaw, LAD: 204.1-13-10-2.91-212
16. Chris Carpenter, StL: 235-16-9-3.22-179
17. Clay Buchholz, Bos: 173.2-17-7-2.33-120
18. Francisco Liriano, Min: 191.2-14-10-3.62-201
19. Matt Cain, SF: 223.1-13-11-3.14-177
20. Yovani Gallardo, Mil: 185-14-7-3.84-200
21. Tommy Hanson, Atl: 202.2-10-11-3.33-173
22. Dan Haren, LAA: 235-12-12-3.91-216
23. Trevor Cahill, Oak: 196.2-18-8-2.97-118
24. Phil Hughes, NYY: 176.1-18-8-4.19-146
25. Max Scherzer, Det: 195.2-12-11-3.50-184
26. Chad Billingsley, LAD: 191.2-12-11-3.57-171
27. Josh Beckett, Bos: 127.2-6-6-5.78-116
28. Tim Hudson, Atl: 228.2-17-9-2.83-139
29. Zack Greinke, Mil: 220-10-14-4.17-181
30. C.J. Wilson, Tex: 204-15-8-3.35-170
31. Colby Lewis, Tex: 201-12-13-3.72-196
32. Gio Gonzalez, Oak: 200.2-15-9-3.23-171
33. Madison Bumgarner, SF: 111-7-6-3.00-86
34. Brett Anderson, Oak: 112.1-7-6-2.80-75
35. Jonathan Sanchez, SF: 193.1-13-9-3.07-205
36. Matt Garza, ChC: 204.2-15-10-3.91-150
37. Ricky Nolasco, Fla: 157.2-14-9-4.51-147
38. Ryan Dempster, ChC: 215.1-15-12-3.85-208
39. John Danks, CWS: 213-15-11-3.72-162
40. Brett Myers, Hou: 223.2-14-8-3.14-180
41. Jaime Garcia, StL: 163.1-13-8-2.70-132
42. Daniel Hudson, Ari: 95.1-8-2-2.45-84
43. Ricky Romero, Tor: 210-14-9-3.73-174
44. Ervin Santana, LAA: 222.2-17-10-3.92-169
45. Wandy Rodriguez, Hou: 195-11-12-3.60-178
46. Shaun Marcum, Mil: 195.1-13-8-3.64-165
47. John Lackey, Bos: 215-14-11-4.40-156
48. Ian Kennedy, Ari: 194 9-10 3.80 168
49. James Shields, TB: 203.1 13-15 5.18 187
50. Ted Lilly, LAD: 193.2-10-12-3.62-166
51. Edwin Jackson, CWS: 209.1-10-12-4.47-181
52. Travis Wood, Cin: 102.2-5-4-3.51-86
53. Hiroki Kuroda, LAD: 196.1-11-13-3.39-159
54. Edinson Volzquez, Cin: 62.2-4-3-4.31-67
55. Jeff Niemann, TB: 174.1-12-8-4.39-131
56. Bronson Arroyo, Cin: 215.2-17-10-3.88-121
57. Carlos Zambrano, ChC: 129.2-11-6-3.33-117
58. Jair Jurrjens, Atl: 116.1-7-6-4.64-86
59. Brett Cecil, Tor: 172.2-15-7-4.22-117
60. Jorge De La Rosa, Col: 121.2-8-7-4.22-113
61. Gavin Floyd, CWS: 187.1-10-13-4.08-151
62. Brandon Morrow, Tor: 146.1-10-7-4.49-178
63. Jhoulys Chacin, Col: 137.1 9-11-3.28-138
64. Fausto Carmona, Cle: 210.1-13-14-3.77-124
65. Carl Pavano, Min: 221-17-11-3.75-117
66. Jeremy Hellickson, TB: 36.1-4-0-3.47-33
67. Jake Peavy, CWS: 107-7-6-4.63-93
68. Johnny Cueto, Cin: 185.2-12-7-3.64-138
69. Derek Lowe, Atl: 193.2-16-12-4.00-136
70. Clayton Richard, SD: 201.2-14-9-3.75-153
71. Mike Pelfrey, NYM: 204-15-9-3.66-113
72. Wade Davis, TB: 168-12-10-4.07-113
73. J.A. Happ, Hou: 87.1-6-4-3.40-70
74. Anibal Sanchez, Fla: 195-13-12-3.55-157
75. Brian Matusz, Bal: 175.2-10-12-4.30-143
76. Scott Baker, Min: 170.1-12-9-4.49-148
77. Dallas Braden, Oak: 192.2-11-14-3.50-113
78. Mark Buehrle, CWS: 210.1-13-13-4.28-99
79. Brandon Webb, Tex: DID NOT PITCH
80. Jonathan Niese, NYM: 173.2-9-10-4.20-148

Preseason top 100 players (21): Halladay (10), Hernandez (12), Lincecum (14), Lester (27), Verlander (29), Lee (31), Sabathia (33), Jimenez (45), Price (46), J. Johnson (50), Weaver (58), Oswalt (62), Latos (65), Hamels (70), Kershaw (72), Carpenter (73), Buchholz (80), Liriano (81), Cain (87), Gallardo (92), Hanson (93).

Short hops

Greinke will begin the season on the disabled list because of a rib injury that could wipe out all of April for the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner. ... The Phillies’ Fantastic Four all make our top 14, and don’t be surprised if Hamels has a huge season, especially if he’s consistently matched up against the opposition’s No. 4 starter. ... A name to remember: The Rays’ Hellickson, an elite prospect who was 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings as a rookie last season. He takes Matt Garza’s place in Tampa Bay’s rotation. The latter is now the Cubs’ No. 2 starter and could be a bargain as a Nos. 3 or 4 starter in a 12-team mixed league.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: Outfielders, Wednesday; starting pitchers, today; coming soon: relief pitchers and overall top 100.

LAST WEEK: Shortstops, March 17; third baseman, March 19; designated hitters, March 20.

TWO WEEKS AGO: Catchers, March 7; first baseman, March 8; second baseman, March 9.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Outfielders

Before we get to the seventh in our 10-part series previewing the fantasy baseball season, a quick word of advice on Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore.

I think the former fantasy stud is undervalued on the rankings of most websites. I realize Sizemore is recovering from a very serious knee surgery, but he is only 27 and isn’t Greg Oden.

That said, if you are drafting in a league in Northeast Ohio, you likely won’t be able to get Sizemore on the cheap.

Regardless of how underrated you might think he is this year, don’t draft him as your No. 2 outfielder unless you wait longer than normal to fill out that position while you stock up everywhere else.

We have Sizemore ranked 23rd at his position, but I’d feel much better drafting him as a No. 3 outfielder, then making sure I pull the trigger relatively quickly on a No. 4 as insurance.

On to the rankings:

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Carlos Gonzalez, Col: 111-34-117-26-.336
2. Carl Crawford, Bos: 110-19-90-47-.307
3. Josh Hamilton, Tex: 95-32-100-8-.359
4. Ryan Braun, Mil: 101 25-103-14-.304
5. Matt Holliday, StL: 95-28-103-9-.312
6. Jose Bautista, Tor: 109-54-124-9-.260
7. Shin-Soo Choo, Cle: 81-22-90-22-.300
8. Jayson Werth, Was: 106-27-85-13-.296
9. Matt Kemp, LAD: 82-28-89-19-.249
10. Jason Heyward, Atl: 83-18-72-11-.277
11. Andrew McCutchen, Pit: 94-16-56-33-.286
12. Nelson Cruz, Tex: 60-22-78-17-.318
13. Hunter Pence, Hou: 93-25-91-18-.282
14. Justin Upton, Ari: 73-17-69-18-.273
15. Alex Rios, CWS: 89-21-88-34-.284
16. Chris Young, Ari: 94-27-91-28-.257
17. Andre Ethier, LAD: 71-23-82-2-.292
18. Delmon Young, Min: 77-21-112-5-.298
19. Shane Victorino, Phi: 84-18-69-34-.259
20. Jacoby Ellsbury, Bos: 10-0-5-7-.192
21. Corey Hart, Mil: 91-31-102-7-.283
22. Ichiro Suzuki, Sea: 74-6-43-42-.315
23. Grady Sizemore, Cle: 79-20-71-18-.256
24. Martin Prado, Atl: 100-15-66-5-.307
25. Curtis Granderson, NYY: 76-24-67-12-.247
26. Vernon Wells, LAA: 79-31-88-6-.273
27. Mike Stanton, Fla: 45-22-59-5-.259
28. Juan Pierre, CWS: 96-1-47-68-.275
29. Torii Hunter, LAA: 76-23-90-9-.281
30. Drew Stubbs, Cin: 91-22-77-30-.255
31. Austin Jackson, Det: 101-4-41-27-.293
32. Nick Markakis, Bal: 79-12-60-7-.297
33. Nick Swisher, NYY: 91-29-89-1-.288
34. Denard Span, Min: 85-3-58-26-.264
35. Jay Bruce, Cin: 80-25-70-5-.281
36. Brett Gardner, NYY: 97-5-47-47-.277
37. Jason Bay, NYM: 48-6-47-10-.259
38. B.J. Upton, TB: 89-18-62-42-.237
39. Carlos Quentin, CWS: 73-26-87-2-.243
40. Colby Rasmus, StL: 85-23-66-12-.276
41. Adam Jones, Bal: 76-19-69-7-.284
42. Ben Zobrist, TB: 77-10-75-24-.238
43. Angel Pagan, NYM: 80-11-69-37-.290
44. Carlos Lee, Hou: 67-24-89-3-.246
45. Raul Ibanez, Phi: 75-16-83-4-.275
46. Michael Cuddyer, Min: 93-14-81-7-.271
47. Coco Crisp, Oak: 51-8-38-32-.279
48. Andres Torres, SF: 84-16-63-26-.268
49. Magglio Ordonez, Det: 56-12-59-1-.303
50. Michael Bourn, Hou: 84-2-38-52-.265
51. David DeJesus, Oak: 46-5-37-3-.318
52. Jose Tabata, Pit: 61-4-35-19-.299
53. Ryan Raburn, Det: 54-15-62-2-.280
54. Rajai Davis, Tor: 66-5-52-50-.284
55. Alfonso Soriano, ChC: 67-24-79-5-.258
56. Johnny Damon, TB: 81-8-51-11-.271
57. Lance Berkman, StL: 48-14-58-3-.248
58. Marlon Byrd, ChC: 84-12-66-5-.293
59. Travis Snider, Tor: 36-14-32-6-.255
60. Cody Ross, SF: 71-14-65-9-.269

Preseason top 100 players (28):
Gonzalez (2), Crawford (4), Hamilton (6), Braun (9), Holliday (17), Bautista (21), Choo (23), Werth (25), Kemp (34), Heyward (36), McCutchen (37), Cruz (44), Pence (52), J. Upton (53), Rios (54), C. Young (57), Ethier (59), D. Young (63), Victorino (64), Ellsbury (68), Hart (69), Ichiro (75), Sizemore (76), Prado (77), Granderson (90), Wells (96), Stanton (97), Pierre (100).

Short hops
We have the Rockies’ Gonzalez ranked higher than most, but I would select him first in the outfield and No. 2 overall after a fantastic first full season. ... Bautista is one of the draft’s biggest wild cards after his out-of-nowhere 54-homer season. ... The Tribe’s Choo has averaged 21 homers, 88 RBI, 22 steals and batted .300 the last two seasons. ... The Braves’ Prado makes the move from the infield to the outfield, where we consider him a low-end No. 2 in a 12-team league. He’s much more valuable at second base, though, and if you can draft him there, you should.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: Outfielders, today; coming soon: relief pitchers, starting pitchers and overall top 100.

LAST WEEK: Shortstops, March 17; third baseman, March 19; designated hitters, March 20.

TWO WEEKS AGO: Catchers, March 7; first baseman, March 8; second baseman, March 9.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Designated hitters

Normally, this is the position that features the players you start at a utility position because they aren’t eligible anywhere else.

Depending on your league’s rules, that might not be the case this season, thanks to Adam Dunn’s move to Chicago, and the Rangers and Angels forcing Michael Young and Bobby Abreu, respectively, to regular designated-hitter duties.

The trio might join David Ortiz and Vladimir Guerrero as players only eligible at DH, unless your league allows you to start a player at a position at which he played a certain amount of games the year before.

If so, Dunn is obviously more valuable at first base, and he might play enough games there in 2011 to be eligible anyway. Young should play enough in the infield to be eligible at multiple positions, but Ortiz, Abreu and Ortiz likely will be relegated to DH-or-nothing status, depending on how highly touted Angels rookie Peter Bourjos fares as the everyday center fielder. The latter’s presence in the lineup has bumped Abreu from a corner outfielder to designated bat.

Another potential dilemma is the Twins’ Jason Kubel, who batted only .249 last season, struggles to hit lefties, doesn’t have a regular outfield position and has Jim Thome around to take away at-bats at DH. Kubel — who batted .300 with 28 homers and 103 RBI in 2009 — is worth a look late, but should be drafted as a reserve.

On to the rankings:

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Adam Dunn, CWS: 85-38-103-0-.260
2. Michael Young, Tex: 99-21-91-4-.284
3. David Ortiz, Bos: 86-32-102-0-.270
4. Bobby Abreu, LAA: 88-20-78-24-.255
5. Vladimir Guerrero, Bal: 83-29-115-4-.300
6. Jason Kubel, Min: 68-21-92-0-.249
7. Jorge Posada, NYY: 49-18-57-3-.248
8. Hideki Matsui, Oak: 55-21-84-0-.274
9. Manny Ramirez, TB: 38-9-42-1-.298
10. Travis Hafner, Cle: 46-13-50-2-.278

Preseason top 100 players (4): Dunn (52), Young (67), Ortiz (83), Abreu (98).

Short hops
Adam Lind has moved from DH to first base in Toronto, and Johnny Damon is now an outfielder in Tampa Bay. ... Ortiz has had at least 30 homers and 100 or more RBI in six of his last eight seasons. ... Posada is expected to spend most of his time at DH because of the Yankees’ signing of Russell Martin and the grooming of uber-prospect Jesus Montero as the backstop of the future. ... Ramirez has compiled only 617 at-bats the last two seasons, but his numbers in that span are very good (.293, 28 homers, 105 RBI, 100 runs). ... The Tribe’s Hafner has batted .259 with a combined 34 homers and 123 RBI the last three seasons.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

Shortstops, Thursday; third basemen, Saturday; designated hitters, today.

Catchers, March 7; first baseman, March 8; second baseman, March 9.

NEXT WEEK: Outfielders, starting pitchers, relievers and overall top 100.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Third basemen

Second base, normally a weaker position, has as many top-100 players as third base.

Unless a trimmed-down Pablo Sandoval is back to his 2009 self and Mark Reynolds decides to hit above .200 and not strike out every 2.5 at-bats, it could be a down year for the hot corner.

All of which makes Kevin Youkilis’ switch back to third base in Boston even more important.

Youkilis batted .307 with 19 homers and 62 RBI, despite being limited to 362 at-bats by injury last season, and he hit .309 with averages of 28 homers, 105 RBI, 95 runs and a .960 OPS in 2008 and ’09.

He’s a top-four player at the position, and if Alex Rodriguez plays as he did in 2010, Youkilis is in the top three at third.

That brings us to our fifth position breakdown of the season:

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Evan Longoria, TB: 96-22-104-15-.294
2. David Wright, NYM: 87-29-103-19-.283
3. Alex Rodriguez, NYY: 74-30-125-4-.270
4. Kevin Youkilis, Bos: 77-19-62-4-.307
5. Ryan Zimmerman, Was: 85-25-85-4-.307
6. Adrian Beltre, Tex: 84-28-102-2-.321
7. Aramis Ramirez, ChC: 61-25-83-0-.241
8. Casey McGehee, Mil: 70-23-104-1-.285
9. Pablo Sandoval, SF: 61-13-63-3-.268
10. Mark Reynolds, Bal: 79-32-85-7-.198
11. Pedro Alvarez, Pit: 42-16-64-0-.256
12. Chris Johnson, Hou: 40-11-52-3-.308
13. Scott Rolen, Cin: 66-20-83-1-.285
14. Ian Stewart, Col: 54-18-61-5-.256
15. Chipper Jones, Atl: 47-10-46-5-.265
16. Placido Polanco, Phi: 76-6-52-5-.298
17. Chase Headley, SD: 77-11-58-17-.264
18. Danny Valencia, Min: 30-7-40-2-.311
19. David Freese, StL: 28-4-36-1-.296
20. Alberto Callaspo, LAA: 61-10-56-5-.265

Preseason top 100 players (8): Longoria (13), Wright (15), Rodriguez (16), Youkilis (27), Zimmerman (31), Beltre (40), Ramirez (72), McGehee (85).

Short hops
Longoria had his home-run total drop from 33 in 2009 to 22 last season, and he drove in nine fewer runs (froms 113 to 104). He did, however, set career highs in batting average and steals. ... Wright has had at least 26 homers in five of his last six seasons, and he’s had 102 RBI or more five times in that span. ... Rodriguez’s .270 average and four steals were his lowest totals since 1995, when he had 142 at-bats as a skinny shortstop for the Mariners. ... Sandoval reported to camp in much better shape, and he could be poised for a bounce-back season. ... Alvarez displayed impressive power in his 347 at-bat stint as a rookie, and he capped the season by batting .311 with five homers and 26 RBI in 103 at-bats in September. ... The Braves’ Jones has batted .264 and .265 the last two years, but he’s been tearing it up this spring and could be a late-round bargain.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: Shortstops, Thursday; third basemen, today; designated hitters, Sunday.

LAST WEEK: Catchers, March 7; first baseman, March 8; second baseman, March 9.

NEXT WEEK: Outfielders, starting pitchers, relievers and overall top 100.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Shortstops

There are two hammers at shortstop — Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins (ranked No. 3 overall in our top 100) and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies (No. 7).

After that, you are forced to choose between a former stud who has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons (Jose Reyes), a Yankees legend who had a down year by his standards in 2010 (Derek Jeter) and a 2007 National League MVP who has batted .250 and .243 the last two years (Jimmy Rollins).

As Gus Johnson would say, “And he missed it!”

Reyes will be high-risk, high-reward choice late in the second or early in the third round of a 12-team league. The next shortstop to go off the board likely will be Jeter or Rollins late in the fourth or early in the fifth.

That brings us to our fourth positional breakdown of the season. In honor of Jeter and the possible passing of his days as a fantasy stud, let’s all agree to think of Minka Kelly after every shortstop is selected this year.

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Hanley Ramirez, Fla: 92-21-76-32-.300
2. Troy Tulowitzki, Col: 89-27-95-11-.315
3. Jose Reyes, NYM: 83-11-54-30-.282
4. Derek Jeter, NYY: 111-10-67-18-.270
5. Jimmy Rollins, Phi: 48-8-41-17-.243
6. Alexei Ramirez, CWS: 83-18-70-13-.282
7. Starlin Castro, ChC: 53-3-41-10-.300
8. Rafael Furcal, LAD: 66-8-43-22-.300
9. Elvis Andrus, Tex: 88-0-35-32-.265
10. Ian Desmond, Was: 59-10-65-17-.269
11. Stephen Drew, Ari: 83-15-61-10-.278
12. Marco Scutaro, Bos: 92-11-56-5-.275
13. Yunel Escobar, Tor: 60-4-35-6-.256
14. Alex Gonzalez, Atl: 74-23-88-1-.250
15. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cle: 39-3-29-6-.276
16. Reid Brignac, TB: 39-8-45-3-.256
17. Jhonny Peralta, Det: 60-15-81-1-.249
18. Miguel Tejada, SF: 71-15-71-2-.269
19. Jason Bartlett, SD: 71-4-47-11-.254
20. Yuniesky Betancourt, Mil: 60-16-78-2-.259

Preseason top 100 players (7): Ramirez (3), Tulowitzki (7), Reyes (25), Jeter (43), Rollins (50), Ramirez (60), Castro (89).

Short hops
Ramirez, who averaged 29 homers and 106 RBI from 2007 to 2009, had his power numbers drop to 21 homers and 76 RBI in 2010. ... Reyes averaged 66 steals, 16 homers and 69 RBI from 2006 to ’08. ... Jeter’s .270 batting average was 44 points below his career norm, and his 10 homers were his lowest since 2003. ... Rollins was limited to 88 games played in 2010 and had wrist surgery in the offseason. ... The consistent Ramirez has averaged 18 homers, 72 RBI and 13 steals in three years in the majors. ... Don’t overrate Andrus, who won’t help you at all in the power department (zero homers and 35 RBI last season) and batted .265. ... The Tribe’s Cabrera would be a bargain if he produces as he did in 2009 (.308, 68 RBI, 17 steals).

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: Shortstops, today; third basemen, Saturday; designated hitters, Sunday.

Catchers, March 7; first baseman, March 8; second baseman, March 9.

NEXT WEEK: Outfielders, starting pitchers, relievers and overall top 100.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Second basemen

Second base has one more player in the top 70 overall than the hot corner, and six players at second are ranked in our top 42.

A player who has averaged 31 homers and 88 RBI the last two seasons is ranked ninth at the position (Aaron Hill), followed by a former stud in Chone Figgins and a promising Pirate who hit .296 with 12 homers and 66 RBI as a rookie in 2010 (Neil Walker).

Somewhere Ryne Sandberg is smiling.

On to the rankings:

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Robinson Cano, NYY: 103-29-109-3-.319
2. Dustin Pedroia, Bos: 53-12-41-9-.288
3. Ian Kinsler, Tex: 73-9-45-15-.286
4. Dan Uggla, Atl: 100-33-105-4-.287
5. Brandon Phillips, Cin: 100-18-59-16-.275
6. Chase Utley, Phi: 75-16-65-13-.275
7. Rickie Weeks, Mil: 112-29-83-11-.269
8. Brian Roberts, Bal: 28-4-15-12-.278
9. Aaron Hill, Tor: 70-68-68-2-.205
10. Chone Figgins, Sea: 62-1-35-42-.259
11. Neil Walker, Pit: 57-12-66-2-.296
12. Gordon Beckham, White Sox: 58-9-47-4-.252
13. Kelly Johnson, Ari: 93-26-71-13-.284
14. Howie Kendrick, LAA: 67-10-75-14-.279
15. Jose Lopez, Col: 49-10-58-3-.239
16. Juan Uribe, SF: 64-24-85-1-.248
17. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Min: ROOKIE
18. Omar Infante, Fla: 65-8-47-7-.321
19. Mike Aviles, KC: 63-8-32-14-.304
20. Bill Hall, Hou: 44-18-46-9-.247

Preseason top 100 players (8): Cano (11), Pedroia (22), Kinsler (33), Uggla (41), Phillips (42), Utley (55), Weeks (56), Roberts (66).

Short hops
Cano set career highs in home runs, RBI and OPS (.914) last season and tied his career best in runs. ... We had Utley ranked second at second and No. 18 overall, but bumped him to No. 6 and 55, respectively, because of concerns about his right knee. He has been receiving cortisone injections in the knee and was limited to 425 at-bats by injury last season. ... Uggla has averaged 31 homers, 91 RBI and 100 runs in his five-year career, and his stats could improve in Atlanta. ... The D-Backs’ Johnson was awful in 2009, but set career highs in homers, RBI, runs, steals and OPS (.865) in 2010. ... Keep an eye on the Rockies’ Lopez, who had 25 homers and 96 RBI in 2009. If he beats out Eric Young Jr., he could be a late-round steal playing half of his games at Coors Field. ... Another possible late-round bargain is Uribe, who posted career bests in homers and RBI last season. ... A name outside the top 20 to remember: Sean Rodriguez of the Rays. He had nine homers, 40 RBI, 13 steals and 53 runs in 343 at-bats in 2010, his first full big-league season, and he should be more of a regular in 2011. ... Martin Prado is expected to be the Braves’ starting left fielder, but is much more valuable at second. If you are playing him at second, consider him among the top 10 on the above list. ... The Rays’ Ben Zobrist will be ranked on our list of the top outfielders and is eligible at second after playing 58 games there in 2010. He would be ranked 15th on the above list, ahead of Kendrick, but behind Prado and the players ranked 1 to 13.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: Catchers, Sunday; first baseman, Tuesday; second baseman, today.

Shortstops, third basemen and designated hitters.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: First basemen

As usual, first base is loaded with fantasy prospects.

Outside of the top five, however, there are more issues than we might be accustomed to at a star-studded position.

Will Prince Fielder produce as he did in 2009?

Was 2010 the beginning of Ryan Howard’s decline?

Will Justin Morneau and Kendry Morales be healthy?

Will Matt LaPorta ever do anything?

We have questions, but none has anything to do with the top of the draft.

Albert Pujols is still the slam-dunk No. 1 overall choice — and it’s not close.

On to our second set of rankings of the season.

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Albert Pujols, StL: 115-42-118-14-.312
2. Miguel Cabrera, Det: 111-38-126-3-.328
3. Joey Votto, Cin: 106-37-113-16-.324
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Bos: 87-31-101-0-.298
5. Mark Teixeira, NYY: 113-33-108-0-.256
6. Prince Fielder, Mil: 94-32-83-1-.261
7. Ryan Howard, Phi: 87-31-108-1-.276
8. Justin Morneau, Min: 53-18-56-0-.345
9. Paul Konerko, CWS: 89-39-111-0-.312
10. Aubrey Huff, SF: 100-26-86-7-.290
11. Billy Butler, KC: 77-15-78-0-.318
12. Kendry Morales, LAA: 29-11-39-0-.290
13. Adam Lind, Tor: 57-23-72-0-.237
14. Gaby Sanchez, Fla: 72-19-85-5-.273
15. Derrek Lee, Bal: 80-19-80-1-.260
16. Carlos Pena, ChC: 64-28-84-5-.196
17. Ike Davis, NYM: 73-19-71-3-.264
18. James Loney, LAD: 67-10-88-10-.267
19. Adam LaRoche, Was: 75-25-100-0-.261
20. Mitch Moreland, Tex: 20-9-25-3-.255

Preseason top 100 players (13):
Pujols (1), Cabrera (5), Votto (8), Gonzalez (18), Teixeira (29), Fielder (39), Howard (48), Morneau (49), Konerko (61), Huff (85), Butler (86), Morales (88), Lind (99).

Short hops
I wouldn’t worry about Cabrera’s on-field production, despite his recent arrest. He’s a career .313 hitter who has had at least 33 homers and 112 RBI in six of his last seven seasons. ... Teixeira batted a combined .300 in 2008 and ’09 before falling 44 points last season. ... Morneau’s numbers were from 81 games. He is expected to be ready after a concussion wiped out the second half of his 2010 campaign. ... Morales will start the season on the disabled list after he was limited to 193 at-bats by a freak leg injury in 2010. Concerns over his foot this spring dropped him a couple of spots on the above list. ... Lind makes the move to first base after a down year. The former designated hitter batted .305 with 35 homers, 114 RBI, 93 runs and a .932 OPS in 2009. ... LaRoche could provide late-round value after averaging 26 homers the last five seasons. ... Adam Dunn is ranked first at DH, where he is expected to spend most of his time after signing with the White Sox. If you can play him at first, consider him the ninth-best player on the above list, ahead of teammate Konerko.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: Catchers, Sunday; first baseman, today; second baseman, Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Shortstops, third basemen and designated hitters.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 fantasy baseball rankings: Catchers

Joe Mauer, as expected, is the consensus No. 1 catcher as we enter the 2011 season.

Victor Martinez and Brian McCann usually follow in some order — but we prefer to stray from the norm.

I would take Giants rookie Buster Posey after Mauer is off the board, and consider the phenom among the top 20 players overall after a rookie season in which he produced 18 homers, 67 RBI, 43 extra-base hits and an .862 OPS in 406 at-bats.

Mauer will hit for a better average, but do you really believe he’ll hit more home runs (Mauer had nine last season) or drive in more runs than Posey?

It says here he won’t, and we don’t think Posey will endure a sophomore slump.

That brings us to our first set of rankings for 2011 — the backstops. Players are ranked where we expect them to spend the most time this season, not at every position at which they are eligible. For example, Jorge Posada is listed as a designated hitter, not a catcher.

Posada is obviously much more valuable at the latter position, and should be considered in the No. 12 range (one spot ahead of Jaso) at catcher.

On to the rankings:

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Joe Mauer, Min: 88-9-75-1-.327
2. Buster Posey, SF: 58-18-67-0-.305
3. Victor Martinez, Det: 64-20-79-1-.302
4. Brian McCann, Atl: 63-21-77 -5-.269
5. Carlos Santana, Cle: 23-6-22-3-.260
6. Geovany Soto, ChC: 47-17-53-0-.280
7. Kurt Suzuki, Oak: 55-13-71-3-.242
8. Miguel Montero, Ari: 36-9-43-0-.266
9. Matt Wieters, Bal: 37-11-55-0-.249
10. John Buck, Fla: 53-20-66-0-.281
11. Russell Martin, NYY: 45-5-26-6-.248
12. John Jaso, TB: 57-5-44-4-.263
13. J.P. Arencibia, Tor: 3-2-4-0-.143
14. A.J. Pierzynski, CWS: 43-9-56-3-.270
15. Carlos Ruiz, Phi: 43-8-53-0-.302
16. Mike Napoli, Tex: 60-26-68-4-.238
17. Yadier Molina, StL: 34-6-62-8-.262
18. Chris Iannetta, Col: 20-9-27-1-.197
19. Josh Thole, NYM: 17-3-17-1-.277
20. Rod Barajas, LAD: 39-17-47-0-.240

Preseason top 100 players (5): Mauer (19), Posey (20), Martinez (36), McCann (44), Santana (78).

Short hops
Was Mauer’s 2009 home-run total of 28 a fluke? Since 2005, he has hit, in order, nine, 13, seven, nine, 28 and nine home runs. ... The Tribe’s Santana appears to be fully recovered from his scary knee injury and could be a seventh- or eighth-round steal in a 12-team league. ... Montero was very good in 2009 (.294, 16 homers, 59 RBI, .833 OPS in 433 at-bats), but was limited to 297 at-bats by injury last season. ... Wieters seems to have regressed, but his minor-league track record suggests he should put it all together soon. ... Jaso, who should be the Rays’ everyday catcher, could be a sleeper. The same goes for Arencibia, who will be a starter now that Buck is in Florida. The latter batted .301 with 32 homers and 85 RBI in 412 at-bats in Triple-A last season. ... Napoli is an intriguing choice after hitting at least 20 homers in three straight seasons, but unless Michael Young is traded, he is a backup catcher, first baseman and DH.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2010 season. ... Players are listed only at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2011.

THIS WEEK: We’ll preview the first basemen on Tuesday and the second basemen on Wednesday.

Shortstops, third basemen and designated hitters.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fantasy baseball: Adam Wainwright injury analysis

Adam Wainwright has been selected to one All-Star team.

Outside of St. Louis, the pitcher would be less likely to get recognized than J.J. Hickson.

Yet his season-ending injury (the Cardinals right-hander had Tommy John surgery Monday) is one of the most significant of 2011 for fantasy baseball owners.

It's obviously important that the injury likely was discovered before any league held its draft (if not, why are you drafting in February, unless it's a mock?), but Wainwright's absence eliminates a stud starting pitcher and leaves only three -- Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum -- as late first- or early second-round picks.

I had Wainwright ranked fourth among starting pitchers and No. 23 overall prior to his injury.

He led all National League pitchers in wins the last two seasons (39) and was a combined 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA and 425 strikeouts in 463 1/3 innings in that span.

Now the tiers of starting pitchers include only 11 worthy of being drafted in the first five rounds of a 12-team league.

The breakdown:

-- Tier 1, Rounds 1-2: Roy Halladay, Phillies (No. 10 overall); Felix Hernandez, Mariners (12); Tim Lincecum, Giants (14).

-- Tier 2, Round 3: Jon Lester, Red Sox (28); Justin Verlander, Tigers (30); Cliff Lee, Phillies (32); CC Sabathia, Yankees (34).

-- Tier 3, late fourth round, all of Round 5: Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies (46); David, Price, Rays (47); Josh Johnson, Marlins (51); Jered Weaver, Angels (58).

-- Tier 4, Round 6: Roy Oswalt, Phillies (62); Mat Latos, Padres (65); Cole Hamels, Phillies (70).

This isn't to say starting pitching isn't deep. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals are ranked No. 73 and 74 in our top 100 and can be drafted as a No. 2 pitcher in a 12-team league.

It is to say there are very few surefire studs, and Wainwright was one.

Even if you have to be a fantasy fanatic to have any idea who he is.

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